8 Sales Handshakes for Evil First Impressions

The sales handshake: While Orientals saluted each other with a polite bow, Westerners shook their hands and displayed their palms to appear honest and demonstrate no weapons were being concealed, i.e, that there were no hidden intentions. In ancient Rome however, they didn’t shake hands but rather grabbed each others forearms as it was common for them to carry daggers concealed around their wrist area.

Ask anyone if they’ve ever had a bad handshake and you’ll most likely get a laugh and a vivid description.

Getting the pressure in a handshake is important as the handshake itself. Businesspeople, particularly the males the species, often squeeze harder if they’re trying to clench a deal, show confidence over their counterpart or give a generally warm greeting. But the crucial thing to remember in terms of pressure is not to squeeze hard in all situations; a firm handshake (without crushing the other person’s hand) shows confidence and is preferable over a limp handshake, which can indicate to someone that you’re not interested in building rapport with them and want to escape the greeting ritual as soon as possible.

According to a poll taken by Chevrolet Europe, more than 70 percent of people said they lacked confidence when it came to shaking hands. Chevrolet Europe even went so far as to commission Professor Geoffrey Beattie, head of Psychological Sciences at the University of Manchester to create a formula for the “perfect handshake” in preparation for a handshake training guide they were developing. The study looked at eye contact, verbal greeting, Duchenne smile (smiling with eyes and mouth), completeness of grip, dryness of hand, strength, hand position, vigor, temperature of hands, texture of hands, control and duration of handshake.

Why do you think we shake hands? We shake hands to show that we hold no weapon. It is thought to have started with the Roman arm clasp. One man would reach out his right hand, his weapon hand, and clasp just below the elbow of the man he was greeting. With this greeting neither person could wield a weapon easily. Medieval knights created the shaking part of the handshake because they knew that other knights hid daggers up in their sleeves and that the shaking would dislodge any hidden weapons. So basically handshakes are weapons checks: Are you packing any weapons? Let me check. Nope. Okay, let’s talk.

Regardless of gender, you must still try to give a good handshake. In another study held by St. John’s psychologist William Chaplin, findings showed that “women who had firm handshakes tended to be evaluated as positively as men are.”

Not surprisingly recent academic research indicates that a firm handshake that shows strength and vigor with appropriate eye contact length and completeness of grip is related to a favorable first impression. You have one shot at a first impression, so don’t ruin it up with one of these bad handshakes.

1. The limp sales handshake.

This handshake gives the impression that you’re shy, uninterested or lack self-confidence. Apply moderate pressure when shaking someone’s hand. When in doubt, try to mirror the other person’s grip.

2. The wet handshake.

The single most efficient way to make a very bad first impression is offering a cold, wet sales handshake. Always hold your beverage in your left hand and keep your right hand free for handshaking, especially during networking events.

3. The terminator handshake.

This painful handshake can be an instant turn off. Crushing someone’s fingers or twisting your wrist so that your hand is on top is a sign of dominance. Your grip should be no harder than what you would use to turn a door handle.

4. The pump handle handshake.

There’s no need to grab someone’s hand and repeadedly pump it up and down. Send your hand in for the shake, pump one or two times, hold for a second, then release.

5. The look-away handshake.

If you’ve ever shaken hands with someone who’s looking around the room for their next introduction, you’ve experienced the lookaway shake. Never let your eyes wander, no matter how tempting the distraction. Make the all-in connection between eyes and hands.

6. The fingertip handshake.

If you’re going to shake, then shake. Offering just your fingertips is like baking a cake halfway. It offers the same ingredients, but it’s much less satisfying.

7. The big squeeze handshake.

If you linger while holding on to someone’s hand and add periodic squeezes, it can be wholly uncomfortable—on many levels. A proper handshake only lasts a couple of seconds.

8. The fist bump.

This is when two or more people make a fist and bump each other with their knuckles as a way of saying hello. A study by the American Journal of Infection Control shows that handshakes transmit about 10 times more bacteria than fist bumps, but the fist bump will never take the place of a nice firm handshake that is the symbol of good manners and social confidence.


It’s vitally important to make a good first impression, and the sales handshake you offer is something you can control. Use it as your initial opportunity to connect, make it sincere, and you’ll be off on the right foot.

A proper sales handshake should last from 3 to 6 seconds, be equally balanced meaning each persons hand is vertically side by side, thumbs must be locked around each others upper hand and fingers have a firm grip. Always reciprocate the same amount of pressure you are receiving from the other persons hand, and mentally give a calculation from 1 to 10 of what strength they are using, adjusting accordingly.